Announcement of the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research

November 20, 2014

Thank you, Michael [Apkon]. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Ted Rogers said, “There are always lots of opportunities, if you persevere and aren’t afraid to take chances. But the important thing is that you have to work very hard and take risks.” Given the number of people affected by heart disease in Canada and around the world, we need to take Ted Rogers’ advice.

Thankfully, the partnership we’re announcing today includes researchers and clinicians who are ready to open a new scientific horizon. We are willing to challenge each other, and eager to work together collaboratively. And we have the support and the leadership of the Rogers family – inspired by Ted Rogers – whose vision has gathered us, and whose commitment will enable us to succeed.

The generosity and magnitude of this gift, and the transformational effect it will have on heart research, reflects the pioneering, innovative spirit of Ted Rogers and his family. And the partnership it has made possible will have a global impact. Together, UHN, SickKids, and U of T will accelerate discovery and innovation in cardiac care to unprecedented levels – preventing illness, improving health, and saving lives.

And so, on behalf of the University of Toronto, I offer deepest thanks to the Rogers family, for making all of this possible.

The truly vital work of the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research will unfold at several sites in Toronto’s Discovery District, along University Avenue. This brilliant network of research hospitals, health institutes, incubators, and the University of Toronto is one of the largest and most productive health sciences clusters in the world. The Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research will leverage the extraordinary creativity of this network of talent, and propel our clinicians and scientists to even greater heights of collaboration, productivity, and impact.

UHN, SickKids, and U of T bring to this great mission global excellence in biomedical research, advanced education, and clinical innovation. Each is recognized around the world for outstanding leadership, governance, and best practices. And each contributes its own unique expertise. But together we are greater than the sum of our parts. And we have a record of success in collaborating with each other.

Never before have we come together with such a singular focus: to work toward the elimination of heart failure. But looking at the talent involved and the determination we share – and with the Rogers family as our inspiration – we have every reason to move forward with confidence.

My colleagues have shared with you some of the incredible work that will be done under the banner of the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research. At the University of Toronto, our focus will be translational biology and engineering. U of T will combine stem cell technology with novel approaches in cellular and tissue engineering for the regeneration of heart muscle, coronary vessels, and heart valves. This cutting-edge science, which is crucial to restoring damaged hearts, will be led out of U of T’s Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, one of the many fields in which we are recognized as world leaders.

U of T researchers will also contribute to our understanding of how genetic, molecular signaling, and cellular networks function as the heart develops. Alongside our partners at UHN and SickKids, we will probe how these networks can be modified using new drug and biologic therapies. What we learn will open up new possibilities for more effective heart therapies, for children and adults.

U of T scientists will also create technologies and tools to improve heart physiology monitoring, in clinical settings and for patients at home. As a result we will be better able to provide seamless, integrated patient care.

Leading this exciting new platform of discovery will be two new Chairs in Immuno-Bioengineering, and Cardiac Tissue and Cellular Systems Modelling. These Chairs will be situated at U of T’s Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering and cross-appointed to UHN’s McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine.

The Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research will also support the development of technologies with strong translational potential. Building an efficient, sustainable health care system aimed at constant improvements in patient care requires a relentless dedication to innovation, and a culture designed to foster new ideas, discoveries, and breakthroughs.

The Ted Rogers Innovation Fund—also created through the Rogers family’s landmark gift—will play a crucial role in building that culture. It will enable researchers from across our institutions to attract additional support and momentum to move their innovations into the clinical and commercial spheres. Ultimately, these innovations will benefit hundreds of thousands of people living with heart disease.

The Rogers family’s visionary gift will also create the Ted Rogers Education Fund, to help us attract the brightest undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postgraduate clinical and research fellows. This key strategic investment will ensure that Canada has a deep pool of world-leading talent in cardiovascular research and innovation, for generations to come.

Ladies and gentlemen, the great partnership launched today will change and save countless lives. The Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research will help enable more people – adults and children, here and around the world – to live long, healthy, and happy lives.

The University of Toronto is grateful; our partners are grateful; but all Canadians, and all those who will benefit from the breakthrough this Centre represents – we all owe a great debt of gratitude to the Rogers family, for giving us this monumental reason to hope. And so, I would like to conclude by thanking them again, for their historic act of philanthropy, and for the promise of a healthy heart. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.